Dr. Roy D. Kindrick is a highly respected oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Denton. He is also an assistant clinical professor in the department of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Baylor College of Dentistry.
Dr. Kindrick and I are first cousins, and Roy is a beloved friend who shares both fond and excruciatingly painful memories with me.
Our fathers were brothers. His father’s name was Bennett, my father’s name was Grady.
We passed those first names on to our sons.
My son Grady left this earth almost 20 years ago. Roy’s boy Ben has been gone less than half that time.
Roy and I will never know why. Self-inflicted gunshots by young men with entire lives before them can not be understood by mortal men like me and the maxillofacial surgeon who teaches at Baylor.
As only a parent who has lost a child in this manner can attest, the degree of angst and soul agony cannot be described. But this column isn’t intended for yesterday’s painful reflections and the perpetuation of family sorrow. I mention the deaths of our sons simply to highlight the love and powerful bond that exists between myself and doctor Roy Kindrick.
This colum is about a tin roof decoration that Roy fetched from our grandmother’s demolished barn in Junction. It’s also about some happy memories from that little town on the upper South Llano River where we enjoyed our childhoods. And it’s about an oral surgeon and university professor from Junction who smoked cigarettes, chewed Beechnut, Brown Mule, and Red Tag Tinsley’s chewing tobacco, and dipped Copenhagen snuff throughout most of his life, flabbergasting and flummoxing both family members and cohorts in the medical profession where he has excelled.
Dr. Roy Kindrick–if you can believe this–even wrote and published a book titled A Guide for Smokeless Tobacco Users.
And I hold the dubious distinction of being the wormy older cousin who turned Dr. Kindrick on to his very first cigarette.
We can laugh today about the nicotine insanity, for both of us have managed to dislodge the big tobacco monkey from our backs. But Roy has mixed feelings, since the happiest days of his existence were spent dipping snuff with son Ben as they hunted and fished together from Canada to the Amazon.
I just received a prize in the mail from Roy. It is a framed piece of the tin ridge row decoration, complete with a star, which came from our grandmother’s barn. Backing for the ridge row piece is made from old shingles which a demolition crew had ripped from the barn.
Roy said he and wife Pat were in Junction in July. It was on one of their annual trips to visit the graves of Roy’s parents, my uncle Bennett and aunt Eleanor Kindrick.
“It’s where he and Fred (his late older brother Fred Kindrick) started life,” Roy recalled in a letter, going on to say that he and Pat decided to have one last look at our grandmother’s property.
“Much to our surprise,” Roy said, “there was a crew loading the last few boards from the barn on to trailers. It had already been demolished. I introduced myself to the foreman and asked if I might have one of the old boards for a keepsake. He handed me a handful of shingles, and said, ‘These are great to paint pictures on.’ I asked if he had seen a ridge row decoration with stars cut in it on top of the tin roof. He said, ‘Yes, but it was torn up and in bad shape. I kept some pieces and planned to put them together for a keepsake to give to the owner of the barn.’
“About this time the owner showed. He had only been in Junction for a short time and was all ears to hear about the past history of his new property.”
Then the foreman brought Roy the ridge row pieces, one of which he mailed to me.
“As I was walking back to my car,” Roy said, “memories started to fly through my head. The only one I will mention here is my first cigarette. You, Fred (his late older brother), and I were in the dugout/hideout behind Nanny’s (grandmother Kindrick) house. We had taken money Mom gave us for sodapop, walked up to Main Street. and purchased Bugler and papers. You had a cigarette rolling machine. I remember it was orange. None of us got sick. The most important part for me was that I actually got to be one of the bunch.”
Roy went on to say: “This was the start of a long history of tobacco use for me. I smoked, chewed, and dipped about everything that was made. Can you imagine an oral and maxillofacial surgeon that used tobacco before and after work, and looked forward to E.R. calls because it meant he could have a dip of snuff on the way home? Copenhagen was my greatest addiction. I should say it is my greatest addiction. I’ve been clean since 2010, and with God’s help will stay that way.”
As of October 16, I will be alcohol and drug free for 23 years. And like cousin Roy, Copenhagen became my final addiction. I quit the snuff on Easter Sunday morning of 1992 when I?awakened to find my beard glued to my pillow case, a condition caused by snuff juice running from my mouth as I slept.
Roy says he would do it all over again if he had the chance.
“Some of the best times Ben and I had together were when we were dipping Copenhagen,” he said. “We fished Alaska, Canada, the Amazon twice, hunted antelope in New Mexico, dove near Brady, and spent most of every deer season in Kimble or Sutton counties. God has been good to me.”
I have no urge to drink alcohol or snort speed. The compulsion has been removed. But when I see a dirty old Copenhagen tin laying out in the dust or mud, I have an almost uncontrollable urge to grab it up and lick it clean.
As Hank Jr., would say, maybe it’s a Kindrick family tradition we are trying to break.